Monday, February 2, 2015

Talent and Intellect Start with Curiosity!

I think the saddest thing an aspiring writer has ever said to me is, "I don't think I'm smart enough to be a writer."

I'm not even sure what that means. Bad spelling? Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were all notoriously bad spellers. A dictionary could fix that. Poor grammar? There are plenty of online resources these days to help a writer figure out how to construct a sentence. And why not audit a basic grammar course, either online or in person at a local community college?

In reality, I think when a person says they're not "smart" enough to be a writer, it means that they don't know a lot about EVERYthing. A writer, it seems to them, is some brainiac who, for whatever reason, chose not to make a living as a "Jeopardy" contestant.

I always feel uncomfortable when people assume that I know everything. I don't and I freely admit it. What I do know is that I love to learn about a lot of things, even things that don't necessarily interest me. It's called curiosity.

That sums it up. It's easy to point to different things I do besides writing (like cake decorating or cooking, for instance) and say I have special talents. In all honesty, though, I have to credit all the "talents" and "knowledge" I've acquired to an over-active curiosity gene (if you don't have one, I suggest getting one!)

In other words, the first step to gaining knowledge and developing talent is to get interested in something, even if it's something that normally doesn't interest you. My father always told me, "Don't be afraid to learn something you don't need to know." By taking that to heart, I've not only learned how to decorate cakes, cook, and write, I've also gained a passing knowledge of:

* gemology (the study of gemstones)
* history of different areas of the country and the world (this alone has enriched me beyond words!)
* oenology (the study of wine or the science of winemaking)
* professional sports including rodeo, wrestling, and football
* firearms and how to use them

And that's just a small sample. My library of interests grows daily!

Am I an expert in any of those fields? Not at all. Far from it, in fact. But many people are under the impression that learning about something means that they have made the decision to devote their entire lives to mastering that subject, and perhaps that intimidates them from making a "commitment" to learn something new. Learning experiences, indeed, life itself, can be a buffet; you don't have to take a plateful of anything, just a little of this, a little of that, taste something new, see if you like it.

And if you do, you can always go back for seconds!


  1. I think many writers are insecure. We worry about how people will view our work. What's more, I've seen many writers scared to death about public appearances. The reason--we are putting our inner selves out there for everyone to see. Just my opinion.

  2. That was the hardest thing for me to overcome, John! I'm a very private person and knowing that my writing--my inner self--was going to be out there for public scrutiny and critique gave me a lot of anxiety! It's important for writers to have the strong support of family and friend. I've acquired new supporters by branching out into different interests... some of the biggest supporters of my writing career are my co-workers at the winery! Working the wine bar and talking to patrons about wines helped me with my stage fright immensely! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  4. I agree with both of you. Your work is like your child. You give them the keys to the car and they drive off--and you have no control over where they will go or how they will make you look. But our curiosity drives our writing, too. We have learned (and become passionate) about the local Indians, their history, and their story. We found out about shark finning and the North Shore controversy on Oahu for one of our mysteries. Right now, we're writing about the Pearl Harbour Arizona survivors who can request to have their ashes interred on the monument for a new mystery. Writing is a way to share our acquired knowledge with others. (Sorry, I deleted the first post because of the errors, and there was no way to edit it.)